Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Press Statement from Abahlali baseSiyanda B
Sakhephi Emmanuel Zenda, 16, was discovered dead at 7:00 a.m. on Monday 27 July 2009 in B Section, Siyanda. It seems that he had been electrocuted from a badly made connection during the night. He was a grade 8 pupil at Zeph Dlomo High School in KwaMashu.
His grandmother has also passed away and the family will face a double funeral at eZingolweni on Saturday.
The movement will meet in Siyanda at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow to discuss this tragedy. We have invited church leaders to this meeting and we extend an open invitation to all those who do not accept that the poor should die like this. We will discuss a proposal for the movement to hold a memorial service for c on the Friday before the funeral.
If the eThekwini Municipality had provided electricity to Siyanda B Sakhephi would be alive today. He is not the only person to have died like this. There have been a number of similar deaths in Mayville.
The eThekwini Municipality took a notorious and deadly decision in 2001 to stop providing electricity to shack dwellers. We have travelled around this country and we know that this is the only municipality that took a decision to stop providing electricity to shack dwellers. Why is eThekwini the only municipality where the poor must burn in the fires or be electrocuted by badly connected wires? Even rural areas are getting electricity these days.
When people don’t connect themselves to electricity and continue to reply on candles and paraffin stoves they face fire after fire. They are also forced to live without the benefits of the modern world. It is as if it has been decided that they do not belong in this world, that they have no rights to this world.
When a community is not well organised and their community electricians are not well trained and connections are not well made there is always a risk of electrocution. But this risk will not stop people from connecting themselves. People connect everywhere and they will continue to do so.
The solution is obvious. The eThekwini Municipality must overturn its cruel and deadly decision to stop providing electricity to shack dwellers. They must then move as quickly as possible to electrify the settlements. They must also apologise for all the deaths that their cruelty has caused.
If they fail to do this then each community must organise itself so that it can arrange connections in a safe and disciplined way. Where a movement has trained its electricians very well and it works in a safe and disciplined way there are no accidents. This has been clearly proven in many places. If the state continues to fails to recognise our humanity, and it remains up to us to recognise and defend our own humanity, then each community and each movement must take the responsibility to ensure that electricity is appropriated in a safe and well organised manner. Until this service is provided to everyone we have no choice but to continue to support Operation Khanyisa so that people can keep themselves safe from fires and benefit and advance their lives.
But not all communities are well organised. In some places each family makes its own arrangements. It is therefore clear that for as long as electricity is denied to the poor there will be more deaths in the fires and there will be more deaths by electrocution.
We will continue to struggle for electricity. We will continue to build unity around our demand for electricity for all. We will continue to explore legal options for holding the eThekwini Municipality responsible for their failure to electrify the settlements and for the deaths that this has caused. We will continue to engage in mass struggle against this municipality until they agree that everyone deserves to be safe and to have the benefits of electricity. We will mobilise across the city against this policy which is really a decision that our children, the children of the poor, should die. We cannot accept this. No decent human being, poor or rich, can accept this.
We note that in many of the RDP houses in Siyanda there is not formal electricity. Even there, in the formal houses, people have to connect themselves. It is clear that we are seen as people who don’t really need electricity.
We also note that the municipality rushes to tell the newspapers how much money is being lost by community organised connections. If they are so worried about this why don’t they put us on the electricity grid? By denying the people formal access to electricity they force the people to take electricity. They leave people with no choice.
The dying of poor people in the shacks doesn’t matter – it is accepted. If the rich were dying like this it would be a big story. This is a moral issue that is the responsibility of everyone.
We are people who do not count in this Municipality. We are people who do not count in this system. We will do what ever it takes to make sure that each person counts. If that means going to court we will go to court. If that means going to the streets we will go the streets. If that means training electricians in each community to ensure safe connections we will do that. If that means resisting disconnections we will do that.
Services must be available to all humans without respect to class.
We send our deep condolences to the family.
For further information contact:
Mama Nomusa Nxumalo, Chairperson of the Siyanda B Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch: 07654796198
Mr Ngwenya, Deputy Chairperson of the Siyanda B Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch: 074 551 7834
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